A quick hello

Hi friends,

Sorry for my hiatus!

Work is still pretty crazy for me, so it’s been all work and no fun. Last week I was in Bulgaria, and I cannot wait to update you all on that! A summary post is coming, I promise.

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I wanted to quickly pop in and say hello, and let you guys know that I miss you. I’ll be back later this week with more details from my trip.

A to Z Survey

Hi all,

I have seen this survey popping up everywhere, so I have decided to join the crowds, and participate!

A – Age: 29

B – Biggest Fear: I struggled to think of one for this one! Not because I don’t have any fears, but because the “biggest” doesn’t come to mind right away. I guess generally I’m afraid of things that will hurt (childbirth, car accidents, etc.) and being in the house by myself and hearing noises upstairs freaks me out everytime.

C – Current Time: 10:00 pm

D – Drink You Had Last: Red wine- drinking as I type :)

E – Easiest Person To Talk To: My friend Cara. Easy to talk to and easy to text- sometimes our messages get very, very long via What’s App

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F – Favorite Song: I generally have a favourite of the month, because I love to listen to them on repeat until I get sick of them. Current favourite would be either “Let it go” by James Bay, or “Are you with me” Lost Frequencies

G – Grossest Memory: In University, I lived in residence on a big party floor. It was fun at the time, but now I look back at some of the things that happened during that time and find it really gross. This includes:
– some guy throwing up, and the cleaners refusing to clean it so someone taped down the side of a cardboard box over it, and then we left it for months
– another guy getting quite drunk and peeing on the couch. No one sat on it for a month or two, but eventually one person did and then everyone else gave up and did as well. No one had ever cleaned it up.
– the kitchen. Each floor had a kitchen, and ours was so disgusting- it looked like someone had come in there, thrown all sorts of food, and drinks over every service, and then left it for a few months.

H – Hometown: Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. I haven’t lived there since I was 12, but my dad still lives there so I try and visit (though haven’t been able to since moving to the UK). According to surveys, it’s the fastest growing city in Canada, but since it’s central Canada, I would say 90% of people I talk to outside of Canada have never heard of it.

I – In Love With: Assen <3 I find I’m less public about our relationship than I have been with previous relationships, so I might not say it on the blog much, but him and I are having a great time together

J – Jealous Of: People who are truly passionate about their jobs. I’d love to have that but currently do not

K – Kindest Person You Know: Assen. When I first moved here, him and I were friends for just about the first year that I was here (before it became more). But when I first arrived, he helped me so much. He drove me an hour out of the city to look at a car, and then the next day drove me back so I could buy it. Helped me move into my place, helped me set up internet. Invited me to social events, and introduced me to people, to help me get to know people. My entire experience in the UK would’ve been so much more lonely and difficult without him. He’s continued to be that caring and kind ever since.

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L – Longest Relationship: Just shy of 4 years, with my ex.

M – Middle Name: Dominique

N – Number of Siblings: One- an amazing older sister (you can check out her blog here)

O – One Wish: I wish all my family lived closer. The hardest part of living in a different country is being so far away from them.

P – Person You Spoke To On The Phone Last: My sister- though technically that was facetime but still counting it!

Q – Question You’re Always Asked: “How tall are you?” is one that I often get (I am 5’11) or now that I live in the UK, whenever I comment I’m cold- “How can this feel cold to you? You’re from Canada!” (does not mean that I no longer feel cold people!)

R – Reason To Smile: Remembering that if you can afford to eat three meals a day, for three weeks in a row, you are amongst the 15% wealthiest in the world. Everytime I think of this, it makes me feel so lucky for everything that I have, which I take for granted on a regular basis.

S – Song You Last Sang: Let it go, James Bay

T – Time You Woke Up: Hmm- for the first time or when I actually got out of bed? Alarm went off at 6:30, I re-set it and actually got up at 7:40.

U – Underwear Color: Red

V – Vacation Destination: Next vacation destination is in just under 3 weeks- heading to Bulgaria and Turkey!

W – Worst Habit: I’m very stubborn. This can be bad for when someone tells me not to do something as once I’ve decided I’m doing it, then there is no convincing me of anything else. It’s led to some good things (such as moving to the UK), and some bad things (like the time I moved to a new city for 3 months, having no job and nowhere to live, and rent payments that I had to continue paying at my old place).

X – X-Rays You’ve Had: After getting in a car accident with a friend in high school, they x-rayed my neck to ensure there was no serious damage. Learnt at that time that two of my vertebrates are fused together in my neck (has been that way since birth apparently- I’ve never noticed it).

Y – Your Favorite Food: Hmm- I don’t know if I have one! I think I may have to go with raspberries- especially now when they’re in season. I’ve been going crazy with buying them, getting home and promptly sitting down and eating them all.

Z – Zodiac Sign: Taurus (maybe that’s where the stubbornness comes from)

I’d love to hear from you guys. Pick a couple and let me know what your answers would be!!

Bath exploring

Hi friends,

How’s everyone’s last few weeks been?

My last few weeks have been filled with a whole lot of work! Think 75 hour work weeks, working through the weekend, and you’ll pretty much have a good idea of what most of my June looked like. Doesn’t lead to much to blog about- both since I figure no one really wants to know about the details of my job, but also because most of my job is quite confidential, so I can’t really talk about it even if I wanted to!

However, last weekend, Assen and I did manage to get away for the weekend. It was our year anniversary, and I’ve been told many things about the city of Bath, so we figured we’d spend the weekend exploring a new area.

We woke up bright and early on Saturday, to begin the 3.5 hour drive to bath. By the time we packed up the car, actually got on the road, had a couple stops, and checked into our hotel, it was already mid-afternoon by the time we were ready to start exploring.

First thing we saw, was the Abbey. In my travels throughout Europe, I’ve seen a lot of beautiful churches, but everytime I see a new one, I’m awed all over again.

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The next site was right next to the Abbey, which are the old Roman baths. It’s a beautiful building, which has been preserved from when the Romans were in Britain, 2000 years ago, and created this space for public bathing.

The water itself is naturally heated, due to geothermal energy, which is why the Romans created such a large bathing area here. The Romans first started building here in 60-70 CE, and built up the area over the next 300 years. Once the Romans left in the 5th Century, the bathing houses were no longer used and fell into ruin.

I greatly enjoyed wondering around this area, as it has now been rebuilt, and shows the differing areas, some which were warmer than others, or cooler. Apparently the Romans were quite into bathing, and would bathe every day (versus the typical stereo-type that back in the day no one was that into hygiene).

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When you enter the baths, you were given a phone. As you walked around, there were signs that would tell you which number to enter, so that you could hear information and background for where you were. I quite liked this, as sometimes on a guided tour, someone can be going on-and-on, for something that maybe you’re not overly interested in. However, with this- if it got too long, you could just stop it, and move on to the next area.

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One of the most interesting areas, I thought, was where they have set up a re-created (as per below) wall from the Temple. There was a lot of information of the sculpture of the face at the front, whether it related to Minerva (the goddess that the temple was attributed to), or potentially Oceanus (an old Celtic god), or a Gorgon. Essentially the answer was we don’t really know, but it was interesting to hear all the different theories.

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After the Roman Baths, we wandered over the water edge, as there is a beautiful bridge in Bath, as well as a beautiful river that runs through. We enjoyed the sunshine for a bit, and just the general site seeing.

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After our site seeing, we got dressed up for an anniversary meal. We went to a fantastic Spanish restaurant, and proceeded to eat several appetisers, paella, and drink the best Sangria I’ve had since I was in Spain last year. Unfortunately, because we were too busy eating, drinking, and chatting, I didn’t think to take a single picture! However, it was absolutely amazing. Especially since we’ve both been so busy lately- it was nice just to get away and have an opportunity to catch up with each other.

The next day we drove to Bristol, planning to continue our weekend of exploring. Unfortunately, after we  snapped the below picture, it started raining very, very hard.

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We went for a late lunch, and sat and caught up some more, hoping that the rain would stop and we’d have a bit more time to explore before having to head back home, but unfortunately it only seemed to rain harder and harder.

After our two hour lunch, with it still raining, we finally decided to admit defeat, and head back home, since we knew we both had a couple more busy week’s coming up. It was a great weekend to spend some time together, do some exploring, and explore a new area of the UK that I hadn’t seen before.

What’s everyone else been up to lately?

A few random thoughts

Hi friends,

Happy Wednesday!

I thought today’s post would be a fun, switching it up kind of post. I thought about naming it “Things I spent way too much of my life thinking about, even though it doesn’t impact me at all” but it seemed a tad long. However, that is the focus of today’s post.

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Figured a random picture of me with a panda kind of sums up a “random post” idea, right? :P

Anyone else ever spent long periods of time thinking and wondering about stuff that really doesn’t matter? Sometimes I find things will get under my skin, and then I just can’t turn my brain off about them. So today’s post is about the recent things that I’ve spent way too much time thinking about.

  • Women who date Dan Bilzerian. So, in case you don’t know, Dan Bilzerian is a billionaire who plays poker, engages in extreme sports, and has the most beautiful women surrounding him in almost every single picture he posts on Instagram and Facebook. I recently learnt who he was because I live under a rock, and one of my friends on Facebook seems to “like” everything he does, therefore it ends up on my Facebook feed. He is a known bachelor, often posting things asking why anyone would ever get married, and refers to women as “bitches”, and generally seems to treat them with little respect (there’s an article where he tells the interviewer that women shouldn’t try and dress their body so it looks nice, they should focus on looking good naked because that’s what he cares about).
    So- why do all the most beautiful women flock to him? I just don’t get it! Fine- he has a lot of money and that would attract some women, but you know he’s only going to be with you for what- a night? Week? Maybe a month? So it’s not like you’ll be getting any of that money!
    I guess it’s kind of the same thing as women who want to sleep with celebrities but I just don’t get that either. Are you bragging to your friends afterwards how you had sex with them? Maybe it’s just my friends but I don’t think they’d be impressed if I was bragging about that….
  • What it would be like to speak another language. I only speak English, and I wish very much so that I could speak other languages. So whenever I speak to someone who speaks multiple languages (such as Assen, who speaks 4), I always ask so many questions about it, and spend way too much of my time thinking about what it would be like. He’ll tell me about a dream that he had, and I’ll interrupt to ask him if he dreams in English or Bulgarian (his native language). I also want to know things like: What language was the hardest? What’s the longest word in other languages? Which languages are similar to others, versus which languages are very different (i.e.: French and Spanish are very similar, but French and Russian have very little commonality). I generally just want to know more about all the nuances of becoming fluent in another language.
  • What it would be like to experience life as a different person. Obviously, I can only view the world from my own brain. But sometimes in passing, I will walk by a person who catches my eye, and I’ll wonder what their life is like. Where are they going, and what are their current stresses and successes in life. I’ll spend the next 6 blocks imagining their life and what it’s like.
  • Similarly, what it would be like if someone else could experience life as myself. Usually I think about this when I’m feeling stressed or under-appreciated, as then someone could see the world from my view-point and really appreciate all that I do. But I also wonder what they would experience and notice of things about my life that I take for granted and just don’t even consider. It makes me try and notice the small details in my own life, so hopefully this one is less of a waste of time than the others above.

There are many more that I waste time thinking about, but these are the ones I can think of now! How about everyone else? What do you spend time thinking about, which doesn’t actually impact your life much?

Update for the past week and a half

Hi everyone,

Sorry for the break between blog posts. It’s not because I wasn’t thinking of you, it was just because work got crazy busy and I’ve had very little time that hasn’t been centered around work. Anyone sick of hearing me say that? I know I’m sick of actually saying it! Sadly, work continues like that for me for the next couple of weeks, but I am hopeful that it’ll slow down by the end of June. I’ve been struggling with my motivation for work lately, so I’m hoping that a slow time in July and August will help recharge me a bit.

So- what have I been up to since my last post? Well, early Wednesday morning (aka: 4:45 am) I had a taxi take me to the airport, to fly to Switzerland. I was in a very small town, called Zofingen, which has a population of about 11,000 people. It was very small, but similar to the rest of Switzerland, was very pretty. I managed to explore a bit one of the night’s I was there, and it felt like I had stepped back in time to a slower, more idyllic time.

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Unfortunately, while there I didn’t have much time to explore so all of my exploring was done in about an hour one night. I always get excited when I find out I’m going somewhere fun on a work trip, however everytime it ends up being very little fun. I could’ve been pretty much anywhere during this trip, as I would start work at 7:30 am, and finish at 6:30, before heading back to my hotel to work for a few more hours until having a late dinner. At the airport on my way back, I bought some good Swiss chocolate, as that was my only time for some shopping.

I arrived back late on Saturday, and on Sunday, Assen and I spent 3 hours driving to our training course. Once a year, the company I work for puts on a very large training course, which covers both technical knowledge and soft-skills. They rent out an entire hotel, and it is for staff all throughout the UK. It’s a pretty impressive event, but they do pack as much training as they can in during those three days. The first day, our training course went until 7:15 pm, dinner started at 7:30, and by 10:30 pm, I was back in my room, and working until 12:30.

The second night, they have a large black-tie event, which Assen and I had some fun dressing up for. I tried to grab a couple of selfie’s in the mirror while getting ready, as well as a good shot of my shoes, but didn’t quite succeed.

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I greatly enjoyed one of our training session’s where the motivational speaker Jim Lawless came and spoke to us. He spoke about the 10 tips he has in order to “tame the tiger” and do things you never thought he could do. His concept of “tame the tiger” is all about the fact that we hold ourselves back with limiting thoughts and our own fears, which if he could tame and overcome, we would be able to accomplish so much more. I thought he had some really good points, and I have added his motivational book onto my book list of things to read.

Assen and I stopped at Oxford for a quick trip after the third day, as our training course was only about an hour away from the city. We had a lovely dinner and managed to wander about just a bit, before driving the remaining 2 hours to get home for a late night.

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The rest of the week raced by the blur, and then it was the weekend. Friday had been a beautiful day, so Assen and I took the opportunity to go for a walk, and enjoy a meal outside, before the rain started for the rest of the weekend.

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Saturday was spent largely at home, relaxing and doing very little. The one thing we did do, which I am very excited about, is book our flights to Bulgaria and Turkey for the beginning of August! I’ve been to Bulgaria already (see my recap here and here), but will be seeing a bit different areas this time, as well as spending more than half my time in Turkey, exploring Istanbul which sounds beautiful. If anyone’s been, I would love some tips!

And that brings us up to where we are at everyone! What’s everyone else been up to over the past week and a half?

Belgium: Brussels, Bruge and Ghent

Hi all,

Thanks again for reading and enjoying my recaps of my travels. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again- I love sharing my trips so much. It’s a great way to relive them, and share the back-stories of where the pictures come from.

Belgium was different for me than my other trips, as this trip I went on my own. I back-packed through SE Asia by myself for 2 months after University, but that was the last time I traveled on my own. I have to admit that before going to Belgium, I was feeling nervous. Nervous that things would go wrong, and I would be alone, or just that I would feel lonely- even if it was only for 3 days. However, beyond my nervousness, was the belief that I could do it and it would be fine. And it was a great trip- with a few tourist fails but in the end, it was a great trip and I’m really glad I did it.

Since I was going to be on my own for this segment, I decided to travel a bit more at my speed, and planned to visit 3 different cities in 3 different days. Belgium is a very small country, so it was a good way to see more of the sites. Obviously I didn’t see everything at each place, but I felt like I had a good flavour of all the places.

So first up, Brussels. The capital.

I arrived in Brussels to a wet, rainy day. After having recently been in Lagos and +34 weather, this was a shock to my system. The airport is a distance away from the center of town, so I ended up taking a train to where I needed to go, and I had on google-maps the distance I needed to walk to my hotel.

I arrived at my hotel, feeling pretty proud of myself to have arrived. I went to check-in, but they had difficulties checking me in to the room. Eventually, they realised why. It was because I had booked my hotel for Friday night, but had arrived on Thursday. Huge fail on my part. However, in all the ways that it could’ve gone from there, I feel like I ended up with the best option. I had arrived too late to cancel my booking for the next day, so I had to pay for it. However, I had got the room on a great sale (from booking.com) where a room there usually costs 250 Euros, but I had got it for 70. The man at the front desk (despite laughing at me a bit) obviously felt kind of bad for me, as he gave me the rate that I had paid for the other night. Therefore, I ended up paying 140 Euro for a hotel room that should’ve cost me 250- still needless money spent, but in the grand scheme of things, I still had a hotel room and was incredibly grateful they hadn’t been fully booked that night. It’s all perspective, right?

It felt even better, once I arrived to my room, looked out the window and was greeted with this view:

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I was less than a 5 minute walk away from Grand Place, the main square in Brussels. It was the perfect location. I quickly changed into some warmer clothes, grabbed my umbrella, and left my hotel to go exploring.

First up, was the Grand Place. This was beautiful to see, as the buildings were stunningly beautiful, with many having gold details.

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However, I think my favourite part of Brussels was the narrow roads. Walking down the roads, the shops were basically either a chocolate shop, a pub, or fry shop. There was definitely no shortage to the food that they are known for.

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As it started raining harder, I tucked into a pub, and enjoyed my first Belgium beer. I was worried that I wasn’t going to enjoy the beer in Belgium, as I had been told it was a stronger type of beer, and my favourite beers tend to be beers that don’t taste much like beer. However, I figured I had to try a few of them while there, and randomly selected a beer off the menu

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It was called “kwak” and it was delicious. It was also quite strong, so after one, I headed back out for more site seeing.

For some reason, that I do not understand, there is a statue that is incredibly famous in Brussels. It is called “Manneken Pis” and there are so many mini-statues, magnetics, tourist crap that you can take home to remind you of it. I still can’t figure out why it’s such a big deal, especially after seeing it. It’s a little fountain, but yet so famous. Can anyone tell me why? They dress him up in different outfits depending when you’re there, so I saw him dressed up rather than just the statue itself.

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I wandered around the streets of Brussels some more, but I was quite tired from my 4:30 am wake-up that morning, so I headed back to my hotel pretty early that night, and headed to bed.

I was up and back to the train station the next day, as I was taking the hour journey to Brugge. Everyone I spoke to about Brugge told me that it was stunningly beautiful. It’s known as the Venice of the North, and is a very romantic place for people to go. I think I went with too high of expectations, but I was not blown away by Brugge.

Living in Cambridge, with a beautiful river running right through the city, with beautiful bridges, and Universities lining the water, I kind of felt like I was back in Cambridge rather than being in a new location.

I don’t want to underplay Brugge at all- it was very beautiful. The water was very pretty- and thankfully, the sun had come out so it was a nice day to wander around.

 

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I enjoyed some more beer in Brugge (unfortunately, I didn’t take a picture of it, so I don’t remember what kind) and it was fantastic again. Brugge is also known for the mussels and fries you can eat at almost any of the restaurants, so I found a restaurant and had exactly that, with some Belgium beer (which based off my servers face, was not a good pairing), but I enjoyed it.

I also wandered into quite a few chocolate shops, watching the men and women in the back-room making various chocolate treats. I also had my first Belgium waffle (well, officialy Belgium). Growing up, waffles were always my favourite, so my mom would always make waffles for my birthday. It was so exciting because we would put whipped cream and strawberries on them- it always felt like eating dessert for breakfast. It’s been a trend that has continued into my adult life- with my mom usually making me waffles for breakfast one of the days I go home and visit. Therefore, I was incredibly excited to have the authentic, real deal.

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They were sooooo good. However, I think since I had just separated from my mom, the waffles made me feel very home-sick. I think my mom’s might be better- they have love in them <3

The next day I was up very early again ,partially because the hotel I was in was quite old and the person beside me was very noisy and the walls were very thin, and headed back to the train for my final destination- Ghent.

Of the three places, I think I liked Ghent the most. It felt more like I was experiencing the country- Brussels was very touristy in that all the shops were geared for you to buy things, and Brugge was this magical place which seemed to exist for tourists, but Ghent felt like I was actually in a foreign country, experiencing it.

I spent the day wandering around, checking out the sites, including some churches and an old castle, which great views of the city.

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There was also this one area, which is known as “Graffiti street”. There is no graffiti anywhere in the rest of Ghent. But for this one area, it is legal to put up graffiti on it. You can buy a can of spray-paint and graffiti the area if you want. I didn’t- and I’m a little sad that I didn’t. I missed my chance to feel like a rebellious youth!

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My final night in Belgium was my absolute favourite. The hotel that I was staying in was having a beer event that night at 8 pm. Now, I misunderstood what the event was, as I thought we were going to be trying different Belgium beers, however that was not at all what it was. But it was still fantastic.

There ended up being 8 of us playing- 2 people from India (a couple who lived in the US and were both environmental engineers), a girl from Czech Republic, a girl from the US who was completing her Masters, and a group of women (3 of which were playing) which played on a roller derby team in Scotland and were there with their team. We were all partnered up, and started the night out with a Belgium beer and a beer quiz.

We then transitioned to playing beer pong (and drinking Stella- another Belgium beer). My team lost the first game, but won the second game, so we were happy with third. We finished up the organised event portion by heading outside, and playing a final beer game. Essentially, you had to take a sip of beer, then run about 20 feet, run around a bottle three times and run back to where you had started. Your partner could then take a sip, and complete the same process, which went on until you finished the bottle. When done, you had to put the bottle over your head upside down, to prove it was empty. I think we placed second, but it was hard to tell as one of the team’s seemed to have dumped 1/2 their bottle on themselves to say they were done.

It was a really fun evening, and sadly, I don’t have a single picture from the entire event. I spent the rest of the evening chatting with everyone who had come out for the event, and having a couple more beers at the hotel bar. It was a great break in traveling on my own, and was just a really fun time.

I was up early the next morning to head back to Brussels, so that I could take the train back to London.

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All in all, I loved my trip. It was a great two weeks, with a few tourist fails, but mostly just great site seeing, exploring, and a really nice holiday with my mom.

Currently, my next trips are heading to Switzerland for work this week, and then it’s looking like I might be sticking around town until the first week of August when I’ll hopefully be heading to Bulgaria and Turkey for a visit.

Has anyone else been to Belgium? Are there countries that I haven’t been to yet that I need to visit?

Portugal trip, Part 2- Porto and Lagos

Hi all,

So glad that you guys have enjoyed the first recap of my trip. Now time for the second part- Porto and then Lagos.

First up, is Porto.

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I found Porto to be a very interesting spot to visit. When we were checking into our hotel, the woman told us how a lot of people had moved out of Porto in the past, and were living in surrounding areas. She said that it was only in the past 10-15 years ago that people started to move back to Porto, as a result of the tourist boom, and therefore there is now a lot of construction happening. Walking around Porto, you could really see that the city is in a state of change. There are old, beautiful churches and then half a block later, there are run down houses. It was very diverse, which added to the character of the city.

We arrived mid-day and I knew exactly where my first stop was going to be. J.K. Rowling wrote some of Harry Potter in Porto, and there is a bookstore there, known as one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world, which inspired her bookstore in the story. As a huge Harry Potter fan, I knew I had to check it out.

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I don’t think my pictures capture how pretty it was. There were stain glass windows on the second floor, and the stair case with the red paint and two directions, was so cool. There was also an old school cash register on the second floor, and a coffee shop where you could order a snack and a coffee and sit for awhile and enjoy the beauty of the site.

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On our way back from the bookstore, we took a wrong turn trying to get back to our hotel. The streets often have splits in them, where rather than having an option to go left, right, straight, you end up having about 5 different choices. As such, it is very easy to get turned around. However, this wrong turn ended up working out really well for us, as we ended up finding a vantage point to look out over Porto and enjoy the beauty of the city.

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As we had travelled that morning, with an early morning flight, we were feeling more tired that first night, so we chose to have a very lazy evening. Everyone speaks out about the fresh fish in Porto, so we searched for sushi on my 4Square app, and went to order some take away. That night we stayed in at the hotel, had a bottle of green wine, ate sushi, and watched Pitch Perfect (as my mom had never seen it, and it’s one of the only movies I have on my iPad).

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The next morning, feeling refreshed after a night in, we started the day out by heading to another hot spot of Porto. There is a large tower in the middle of the city, which is the highest point of Porto. We were told that it was a must-do while on our trip. Therefore, first thing, we climbed up all the stairs to the top to enjoy the view.

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After which, we went to the next stop on our tourist-y day, and went down along the water. Porto is right on the Douro river, and the area in the front is an UNESCO world heritage site, as the district at the water edge (Ribiera) hails from a medieval time. It was a beautiful walk along the water to see the sites, as well as there were tables with locals selling hats, and scarves, and other small trinkets.

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A bit of a ways down where we were walking, we came across a pedestrian bridge. This bridge was built by the same individual who also built the Eiffel Tower. At the time (1875ish), the bridge was very difficult to build, due to the length it needed to span, and the quick pace of the river below. The Eiffel Tower in Paris was built after this bridge was constructed, which I found interesting.

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I think the picture below sums up the side streets you see in Porto. On a lot of holidays that I’ve been on, the tourist areas seem further removed from the actual people who live in those areas. However, Porto felt very lived in. My mom couldn’t stop commenting on the graffiti that was everywhere, but I couldn’t imagine living in the little spaces that appeared to people’s homes. It felt very real being in Porto.

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When we had checked into our hotel, the woman checking us in had told us where to go on Saturday night, so that we could listen to some Fado music. Fado music is a music genre which hails from Portugal, and amongst the Portuguese, is known as being very emotional and can be very sad. We had been told that when listening to Fado music, to show respect, all conversation should stop, until the singer is done. Unfortunately, we had ended up in a more touristy area to listen to it, so no one else at the restaurant seemed to have received the memo that they were supposed to stop speaking when the performers were out. As a result, the restaurant was quite loud, and I can’t say I actually heard much of the music.

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We enjoyed our meal, and headed home pretty early that night.

The next day was May 10, Mother’s Day (at least, Mother’s Day for North Americans). I was quite excited when I had realised that I would be spending Mother’s Day with my mom, as I moved out on my own when I was 18, and I think that’s probably been the last time I actually got to spend Mother’s Day with my mom. Because of this, I had planned a great day for us.

Porto is where port wine comes from, which is a fortified type of wine. There are areas all over the city that you can complete a tasting, but I made a lunch reservation at Taylor’s, which was a company I was familiar with, despite not knowing much about port so seemed like a safe bet. I had also booked us for completing a tour and port tasting while there. I was so excited to have this great day to celebrate my mom. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out that way.

I can be quite sensitive to the heat, and had spent the past 8 days in the sun, drinking minimal water. At that point, it was obviously too much for my body, as I woke up on Sunday and felt terrible. I thought it was going to go away, so I ignored it for the first couple of hours of the day. However, when we were walking towards Taylor’s (which was about a 30 minute walk from our hotel), I admitted to my mom how awful I was feeling. I was feeling nauseous, and light-headed, and just generally crappy. I still insisted that it would go away, so we went up to the restaurant anyways. When I had booked the initial trip, I had planned that we would enjoy multiple courses, maybe a different drink with each course for the ultimate pairing. However, the reality ended up being that all food made me feel even worse, and I ended up ordering the plainest thing I could find on the menu (which was a vegetarian meal of quinoa, vegetables and some vegetable broth) and had only water. Even then, I ate about half of my meal, which was done more from sheer will, than actually enjoying the food. I wanted my mom to enjoy the tour and tasting, so I tried insisting that we still go on for the rest of the day’s plans, but she would hear none of it. She insisted that we go back to the hotel, where I could lie down. So instead of this amazing day at Taylor’s, we ended up being there for about 2 hours, before going back to the hotel and I drank a bunch of juice, water, and took a couple hour nap. It was really disappointing, but happens sometimes- we all get sick, even while on holiday.

I woke up at about 5 pm, and felt much better, so we decided to go out around town, since it was the last evening we would be there, and explore a bit more. We wandered through a church which the interior was decorated in gold (it’s estimated there is 400 kg of gold in the inside), unfortunately we were unable to take pictures inside, so I don’t have any (though if you’re interested to see it, I recommend googling Sao Francisco church- I couldn’t find a good website with a bunch of images). We also saw other beautiful churches, which had stunning blue and white tiles in the exterior, sometimes as many as 10,000 tiles.

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We ended up walking by an independently owned wine/port shop which was open, and peaked our heads in for an impromptu tasting, so at least in the end, we did get to taste some port.

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We had a quick bite to eat that night, and then were off to bed very early, as the next day we had a very early morning flight to the South of Portugal, down to Lagos. We got there by flying to Faro, and then we had transportation to take us the rest of the way (as Lagos is about an hour from Faro). I had rented us a transportation van with a company, which guaranteed that there would be no more than 4 other spots. It cost us about $20 each, however, if I could go back in time, I would’ve paid the extra amount to have the hotel arrange a direct pick-up. We ended up having to wait at the airport for another 40 minutes till the van was ready to go, and then the driver couldn’t find our hotel in Lagos so we lost another hour while he drove around trying to figure it out. It was a very frustrating morning, for sure.

However, it all made it worthwhile once we dropped off our bags, checked into our hotel, and went for lunch to this stunning view.

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Last year, when my mom and I went to Greece, I started our trip in Athens, and then ended it on the relaxing island of Santorini. My mom had said she enjoyed having the beach portion of our trip at the end, as it ended the trip feeling very relaxing and recharging, so I aimed to do the same for this trip. However, I wish I would’ve planned an extra day here. I had looked at it when planning for what we would do while there, and there isn’t actually much to do or see in Lagos, so I assumed 2 days would be enough time. But both of us were wishing we had more time to just relax, and do nothing, and an extra day would’ve been much better.

However, we did pretty well with trying to enjoy as much as we could. After our lunch, we went for a hike through the cliffs. I couldn’t stop taking pictures of the water, and the rock formations, it was so beautiful. South Portugal is also very warm, and that first day was 30, but had a nice breeze. After learning my lesson in Porto, I had bought a hat to keep the sun off my head, as well as I went everywhere with a large water bottle to ensure I didn’t overheat again and have to miss out on the beauty of this place.

 

 

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That first night, we just wandered into town and had food in the town. We were up early again the next day, and found our way to the beautiful beach in town. We spent most of the morning just wandering along the sand, occasionally getting our ankles wet (as the water was very cold, despite it being 34 the second day). After a while, we sat along the beach, and just enjoyed hearing the waves crash over the sand.

We had been told that marzipan was a must-eat thing while there, so I enjoyed a sheep-shaped marizapan treat (with a bit of colour on my skin despite the SPF 30 I had worn)

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The next day, our train was taking us back to Lisbon at 5 pm, so we knew we had to optimise our final day there. We got up in the morning, had an orange for breakfast (the oranges grow in Portugal so were very juicy and fresh), and then headed back to the beach. This beach was about a 5 minute walk from our hotel. In the picture below, you can see a beach in the background, which was the beach we had been at the day before.

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We ended our time in Lagos having an amazing lunch of shrimp at a restaurant overlooking the water. We had seen people eating it the day before, but had mistaken it for being lobster since the prawns were so large. It was so delicious, and the perfect end to the beach portion of our holiday.

The end of our time in Lagos was largely the end of our Portugal trip. I had heard the train was a great way to travel in Portugal, but I can’t say I saw much. Though that is likely because I mostly read my book and napped for the 4 hour train journey back to Lisbon. That night we stayed at a hotel by the airport, as my mom’s flight left at 7 am the next day, and mine left at 9 am to take me to Belgium. I got up with her so that we could have a final good-bye at the airport (always very sad).

Then, after killing just a few hours at the airport, it was time for me to board my flight and head off to the final bit of my trip- Belgium

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I’ll have a post up later this week with the final segment of my trip, Belgium!

Portugal trip- part 1: Lisbon

Hi all,

Hope you’re having a great week. I’m so excited to be sharing my trip details with everyone, as this was truly a great trip.

So today- I will be sharing Lisbon.

The first full day that my mom and I were there, it was very rainy and windy and overall not a great day. However, we bought 3 Euro umbrellas and explored the sites anyways. My mom called them our pajama umbrellas, because they looked like old school pj’s.

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We walked around a few of the sites, including finding the main shopping street. It’s right off the water, and has some great shops. However, we stopped for lunch on the street which was a huge tourist fail, as the food was overpriced and not very tasty. I finally downloaded the app “4Squares” while on this trip, and I can’t believe it took me so long to download. We ate at 4Square recommended places for the rest of our time in Lisbon and the food was so much better!

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Lisbon is built on seven hills, with each hill being a different district of the city. This means while site seeing, it’s all up and down hills. I took a few pics of the hills we climbed but never seemed to be able to capture how steep some of these hills were, and how many stairs we were climbing. Definitely got our exercise during this trip, right from the first day when we went up to visit the castle.

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The views were always worth it though once we got to the top. Lisbon had beautiful sites with being right on the water, and all the buildings with the red roofs.

During one of our tours, the tour guide told us about an earthquake, which occurred in 1755. It was basically the perfect storm to have the most damage in the city. It occurred on 1 November, which is a religious holiday, and therefore most of the city inhabitants were at church when the earthquake struck. Because of all the candles lit in the churches, there were subsequent fires all over the city. For those who survived the earthquake, people met along the water edge as a safety point. Unfortunately, there was also a tsunami as a result of the earthquake, further increasing the death toll. Estimated death toll is between 30,000-40,000 people in Lisbon alone (out of the 200,000 inhabitants) and 85% of the city was destroyed, making it one of the deadliest earthquakes in history.

After the earthquake, the city was rebuilt, and the Portuguese people hail Lisbon as being very modern and having wider streets and built in more of a grid system. Being from North America, I wouldn’t quite call it a grid system, but when you visit Porto, which had much less damage than Lisbon, you can see that Lisbon is indeed much more modern.

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While visiting the castle, we were first almost being blown over the edge it was so windy. Thankfully, within about 30 minutes of being there, the clouds started to part and we even got to see the sun.

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The picture below is the same day, literally 30 minutes after the picture above was taken. It was amazing how quickly it cleared up all of a sudden. The city seemed a different place once the sun came out.

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The next day, which was my birthday, we had signed up to take a day tour where we visited a few areas outside of Lisbon. First up was Sintra, where we saw Pena National Palace. I had read about the castle beforehand, but it was very different to see it in person. It truly felt like seeing a fairy tale castle, with the various colours and designs.

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After wandering around this beautiful castle for a couple of hours, we had a chance to stop for lunch and walk around Sintra itself. My mom and I ended up finding this hidden away restaurant, where a man was softly playing Spanish guitar, and the sun was shining, and we had a delicious bottle of green wine. We got so busy chatting away and enjoying our hidden spot, we ended up spending our entire time there, and never had a chance to explore the village much. It was a choice well made, as it felt like a small piece of heaven to hide away and just enjoy for a bit.

It was also the first time I had ever heard of “green wine”. We were later informed by our guide that it means “young wine”, and is not the type of grape, but rather refers to both an area that the wine is grown and the process in making the wine, as it is slightly carbonated. Not enough to count as “sparkling wine” but it ends up very refreshing and light tasting.

After our lazy lunch, and delicious wine, we met back up with our group and headed to the most Western point of continental Europe, Cabo da Roca. It was beautiful to just walk around for a little bit and enjoy the flowers, sunshine and hearing the water crash over the sandy beach below.

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We finished up the tour with a quick stop to the sandy beaches of Cascais. We had 30 minutes to dip our feet in the sand (and have a quick bite of ice cream) before we ended our tour and headed back into Lisbon.

 

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After the tour, my mom and I headed back to our hotel for a quick 30 minute recharge period (where I played on my phone, and my mom played on my iPad) before we headed back out for a birthday dinner. We sat and chatted so late at the restaurant that night, that eventually the waiter had to tell us they were closed. You be noticing a trend with our chatting- my mom and I are both big talkers, and since we don’t see each other very often, when we do have a chance to spend some time together, we take full advantage and just talk and talk, and really catch up with each other. It’s glorious. On that night, we later realised it was past midnight and we had been there for over 3 hours.

We headed back to the hotel and chatted for just a bit longer, before heading to bed as we had an early morning the next day, with a tour of food and wine throughout Lisbon.

Unfortunately, that day, my camera battery was dying so I don’t have many pictures. However, it was a great tour to do. We started the day with stopping at a Portuguese cafe , having a coffee and some pastry. We wandered over to the main shops in Lisbon, where we sampled some marmalade and cheese, with a taster of port (more on that in my trip to Porto though, the home of port). We then wandered up a hill (no surprise there- remember, it was all hills), to have a beer and sit in the shade for a little bit. Finally, we took a boat over to the other side of Lisbon, and had a fish appetizer ( cod cakes, which I cannot say I was a fan of at all), with some green wine.

We headed back to Lisbon, where we stopped into the church below, which had burnt in a fire and they have rebuilt the ceiling and floor, but left the burnt columns in.

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After a couple of busy site seeing days, we had a very relaxing evening that night, and enjoyed a dinner at a close restaurant near to our hotel, and went to bed early. We were very lazy the next day, and slept in late and had a leisurely breakfast in the hotel. We had a kitchen, so we had bought some of the oranges from a street market, and they were potentially the best oranges I have ever had.

Finally, we were ready to leave the hotel and see the final sites that we wanted to see while in Lisbon- the area in Belem for the monastery, tower, and have some delicious pastries.

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We walked along the waterfront for a bit as well, which I tried to capture the fisher’s rods all along the water- but I think you can really only see it in the picture below if you look really, really closely. But there were about 50 rods all along the edge.

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I was really excited to see Belem Tower, because to me, it looks like a giant sand castle whenever I’ve seen it in pictures before. And in person- that’s still exactly what it looks like. I was not disappointed!

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We wandered around for a bit, including the basement which (I think) was a holding cell. Thank goodness I didn’t have to stay in the basement for long because the tower was not built for those as tall as me, as I had to seriously crouch down in that room.

As a side note, I was definitely much taller than most Portuguese people! I’m usually taller than most people (as I am 5’11) but I was often stared at in Portugal, and I received a few comments from locals. Nothing like having people stare and point at you wherever you go :P

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The Belem Tower was beautifully built, as it was historically the entrance to Lisbon. The details of it were absolutely stunning. Plus the views weren’t too bad either :)  DSC05172

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The next day we were up pretty early, as we were flying to Porto, which is in the North of Portugal. However, I’ll save the details of that part of the trip until next time!

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Has anyone else been to Portugal? I’d love to hear your thoughts of your trip!

Back from holiday!

Hi friends,

I am back from holiday! It almost feels like a distant memory now, as I got home last Sunday.

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Sorry for the lack of posting since then, but have just been getting caught up with life after holiday. You know how it is- have to get some food, clean all your clothes, then it’s back to work and getting caught up on work and emails.

Thankfully, it’s a long weekend here in the UK, so I’ve had an extra day of catching up and relaxing this weekend, which has been very nice.

Assen and I had a relaxing weekend together, finally having a chance to spend some time together. This included spending some time at the local beer festival in town

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We smile so nice in pictures :)

We also explored an old English town, Thaxted, which was a fun day trip to get out of town for a bit.

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We also rounded out the weekend with a trip to the movies, to see Pitch Perfect 2. I’ve seen the first one about 10,000 times, so I was very excited to watch the sequel. And I’m happy to say that I thought the second one was great as well. I look forward to watching it many more times :)

It’s back to work tomorrow, and then next week, I’m actually flying out to Switzerland for my job. Originally I was supposed to be flying to Switzerland this week, and the US next week, but I couldn’t make it work with a few of my client’s schedules, so I lost the US trip. But, I think that’s probably for the best, as honestly- a trip is exciting but the week before and after to catch up with everything else is always much less exciting.

I’m starting to work on my recap of my trip, which was absolutely amazing! Very busy- I summarised it on my instagram post but I realised at the end that in 14 days, I had been to 6 cities and stayed in 7 hotels. I did a ton of walking during my trip, so I walked about 140-150 km in the 14 days (as some days my mom and I were walking up to 20 km in a day). It was absolutely amazing and I can’t wait to share it all with you guys!

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How has everyone else been while I’ve been away?

Photo recap of Italy and Switzerland

Hi all,

This is my final pre-written post before I’m actually back from holiday! I’m straight back to work the day after I return, but I’m sure I’ll have plenty of pictures and stories to share before you know it.

My first big trip after I moved to the UK was a 2.5 week holiday through Milan, few places in Switzerland, and finally New Years in Amsterdam. This holiday was quite a while ago, so I thought today- I’d share a few memories from that trip with some pictures!

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The roof of the cathedral in Milan

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The most beautiful place I have ever been to- Montreux, Switzerland.

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Getting ready for my chocolate factory tour (bonus: at the end, there is a room that’s filled with chocolates and you can eat as many as you’d like)

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No exaggeration- I bought all that chocolate. And then I had to sit down for about 30 minutes because my stomach hurt so much from all the chocolate eating!

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The Swiss Alps

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Zurich, Switzerland- such a beautiful place. However, it is known as being one of the most expensive places in Europe. A medium vanilla latte from Starbucks will cost you 7 Euros.

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The smallest tub that I have ever seen in my life. So I obviously had to get into it so that I could see just how small it was.

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Skiing the Swiss Alps

Unfortunately, I don’t really have any pictures from Amsterdam. I took a tour of the canal, where I snapped a few blurry pictures. However, for the rest of the trip, I was mostly drinking and eating- so there wasn’t much of an opportunity for pictures. But it is a beautiful city and was a fantastic place to ring in the New Year.

Have a great rest of your weekend everyone! I’ll be back from my current travels soon :)